Elegant Chinese Last Names or Surnames – Uncommon yet Beautiful Chinese Surnames and Meanings 

If you are looking for elegant Chinese last names or surnames, then you have come to the right place. Each uncommon yet elegant Chinese surname below has been carefully selected, and you will find interesting Chinese insights, history, or meanings alongside the last names to help you understand the surname even better. 

According to the data from China’s Seventh National Census in 2020, over 6000 different surnames are in use across the country. Among them, the top ten most common surnames are shared by a staggering 550 million people. To put it into perspective, if you were to choose the surname “Li,” you would have one hundred million “siblings!”

Family ties are important in Chinese culture, with surnames symbolizing ancestral lineage. Consequently, even if a Chinese individual finds their surname less appealing, does not sound pretty, or is too common, they are unlikely to change it easily.

However, for a foreigner, you have the freedom to choose whichever surname that resonates with you. If you are searching for an elegant Chinese last name or surname, then the first step is to avoid the 100 most popular surnames in one of our articles. Then, take a look at the following carefully curated beautiful yet uncommon Chinese surnames and their meanings. Please note that the following list is based on the national census data and the personal experiences of native Chinese teachers at AL Language Cafe. 

Note: The following list is not ranked in any particular order and represents only the personal opinions of AL Language Cafe Chinese teachers. 

1 – 颜(yán)

The Chinese surname 颜 is ranked 110th in China’s seventh national census, with approximately 1.7 million individuals with the Yan surname nationwide. While 1.7 million may seem substantial, it’s a mere fraction considering China’s population exceeds 1.3 billion. Though surnames alone hold no inherent meaning, the character 颜 means “color” or “facial.” In Chinese history, notable figures with this surname include 颜回, a prominent disciple of Confucius, and 颜真卿, a renowned calligrapher.

2 – 岳(yuè)

Positioned at 133rd in the 2020 census, about 1.49 million people carry the Yue surname. It is an ancient surname and it is said that its first users were descendants of one of the oldest ancestors of the Han ethnic group, 炎帝 (Emperor Yan). In Chinese history, notable historical figures include 岳飞, a well-known national hero. 

The character 岳 itself means “mountain,” and its pronunciation is pleasant to the ear, similar to 悦 in 喜悦 (joy) and 乐 in 音乐 (music).

3 – 甄(zhēn)

Ranked 162nd in the Chinese national census in 2020, roughly 350,000 individuals with the Zhen surname. If you like historical Chinese dramas, then you may be familiar with this surname as it is in the title 《甄嬛传》 Empresses in the Palace. 《甄嬛传》 Empresses in the Palace is a popular Chinese drama that tells the story of a woman named 甄嬛 and her journey through the intricacies of the imperial harem. In addition, the famous Chinese martial artist Donnie Yen’s Chinese surname is also 甄. Donnie Yen’s full Chinese name is 甄子丹. 

Chinese teachers at AL Language Cafe have chosen 甄 as one of the elegant Chinese names because its pronunciation is the same as the character 真, which means “sincerity, real, truth”, conveying a sense of trust. 

4 – 安(ān)

Claiming the 109th spot in the Seventh National Population Census of the People’s Republic of China, around 1.79 million people carry the 安 surname. The Chinese character 安 represents “peace,” “safety,” and “security.” Its minimal number of character strokes and pleasing pronunciation make it a favored choice among our Chinese teachers. 

5 – 童 (tóng)

According to the latest census, approximately 1.05 million individuals carry the 童 surname, ranking it at 160th. This surname is also an ancient surname of the Chinese Han ethnic group. Notable people with the surname in history include 童轩, a famous scientist in the Ming Dynasty, and 童第周 a modern biologist. 

While the surname 童 itself carries no meaning, the character 童 means “child” and “innocence” in Chinese, which makes it very special as a surname.  

6 –  冷 (lěng)

冷 is a common Chinese character that means “cold,” and learners of Mandarin Chinese often learn it at the beginning of their language journey. But as a surname, have you heard or met anyone with the surname 冷? 

According to the national census, only approximately 500,000 people have 冷 as their surname. If you are looking for a cool last name, then this might be the perfect fit. 

7 – 商 (shāng)

The surname 商 is also an ancient surname. More than 1,000 years before the Common Era, there was an ancient dynasty in China called 商朝 (Shang Dynasty), which was the second dynasty in Chinese history and lasted for about 500 years. After the Shang Dynasty was overthrown, the surviving descendants of the Shang Dynasty royal family used 商 as their surname. Although this surname is so ancient, there are only 390,000 people with it as a last name today, making it a rare and elegant surname.

8 – 欧阳 (ōu yáng)

While many common Chinese surnames consist of only one Chinese character, there are also 复姓 (compound surnames), which are composed of two or more characters. Among these, 欧阳 is one of the most common compound surnames, with an estimated 910,000 people currently using it. Notable individuals with the surname 欧阳 include 欧阳询, a renowned Tang Dynasty calligrapher, 欧阳修, a famous writer of the Song Dynasty, and 欧阳震华 (Andy Lau), a famous actor from Hong Kong.

With the list of elegant Chinese last names here, have you found a surname that resonates with you? Last but not least, if you want to improve your Chinese reading comprehension in a relaxed way, then our Chinese Graded Readers would be a perfect fit for you. 

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